Fight goes on to save historic South Shields cinema after listed building setback

The campaign to save an historic South Shields cinema designed by a Sunderland architect will continue, despite it being refused protected status.

By James Harrison
Sunday, 19th April 2020, 12:45 pm
Former planning officer Sean Wilson, an ex-pupil at St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic College.
Former planning officer Sean Wilson, an ex-pupil at St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic College.

But while the national organisation has refused, it is now hoped an application for it to be included on South Tyneside’s ‘local list’ could see it saved from bulldozers.

“The listed building application got knocked back, the demolition notice was approved, but I’m still going to submit the petition,” said Sean Wilson, a former pupil at St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic College, who started the campaign.

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The former Cinema building

“[The number of signatures] has more than doubled in just a three-day period and, despite the Historic England application being sent back, it has raised awareness.

“A lot of people still think it’s getting converted [to flats] or that permission had already been given for it to be demolished.”

A building’s inclusion on the local list does not confer the same protections of full national listed status, but it does mean ‘special local interest’ must be considered in any planning applications.

Criteria for this can include connection to ‘cultural, religious, political or economic history’ or ‘famous local people’ and ‘local historic events’.

The original cinema opened in 1935 with a screening of Leslie Howard’s The Scarlet Pimpernel and survived bombing during the Second World War, but closed and was converted to a bingo hall in 1966.

The building was designed by Cecil Clavering, an architect born in Sunderland who specialised in cinemas.

Wilson is also concerned about the fate of other significant buildings in South Shields, such as the site of the former Congregational Church, in Ocean Road, which is still sitting empty despite being demolished in the 1990s.

He added: “I appreciate the development process can be quite lengthy, but if 20 years down the line there’s still vacant plots then perhaps something has gone wrong.

“And with the forecasted financial climate, I wonder how things will change, I’m not sure how things will pan out, it will depend on the banks.

“The last thing we want is to lose an historic landmark and for the land to be empty for years or decades.”

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